‘Tell Iran their treatment of Nazanin is torture’ - husband urges UK Government

Sophia Sleigh
·4-min read
<p>Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella in a photo released in 2016</p> (AFP/Getty Images)

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella in a photo released in 2016

(AFP/Getty Images)

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband today called on the UK Government to tell Iran their treatment amounts to “torture” after she was sentenced to an additional year in jail.

Richard Ratcliffe warned that her latest jail term was a “signal” that the mother-of-one will be held in open-ended detention until the UK resolves a long-running debt dispute with Iran.

He said his wife was being used as a “political bargaining chip” in talks over reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with the West and a £400 million tank debt owed to the country by the UK.

Mr Ratcliffe said “strong rhetoric” was needed from the UK Government, telling the Standard: “Six weeks ago we sent into the Government a torture report.

“They haven’t even raised it with Iran yet. So I think they should be saying ‘listen this treatment is torture’ and I think they should be calling her a hostage.”

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian charity worker from north London, has already completed a five-year sentence on widely-denied spying allegations levied by Iranian authorities.

Mr Ratcliffe with Boris Johnson when he was Foreign SecretaryStefan Rousseau/PA
Mr Ratcliffe with Boris Johnson when he was Foreign SecretaryStefan Rousseau/PA

She has now been sentenced to one year in prison and a further year ban from leaving the country on charges of propaganda against the Islamic Republic, her lawyer Hojjat Kermani said.

The 42-year-old has been separated from her daughter and husband for almost five years after she was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport. She has always denied all claims.

Mr Ratcliffe described her fresh sentence as “abusive” and added: “We spent the best part of eight months warning this was going to happen and the Government only reacted, waited for it to happen.

“They do need to stop and look at what they are doing. There does need to be a review of the UK’s approach to state hostage taking because it is not fit for purpose.”

He added: “Talk is cheap at some point.”

Mr Ratcliffe said the UK Government had “lessons to learn” and added: “There’s a macho stand-off there that has an innocent mum and baby caught in the middle of it.

“I think in reality there are ways they could pay [the debt] – there’s obviously a fig leaf of sanctions. The Government has to look at what makes British citizens safe. Not paying angry people money back is an odd way to keep your own citizens safe.”

He said it was “perfectly reasonable” for the UK not to want to incentivise hostage taking but accused their stance of “normalising it”.

He said the Foreign Office had a really strong instinct to de-escalate and calm things down, but he added: “A word like ‘appeasement’ gets thrown around but that is, it is normalising this behaviour. And this behaviour is beyond the pale. Hostage taking is a crime against humanity.”

‘Nazanin allowed herself to think she was near the end'

How the mother-of-one reacted to the news

Richard Ratcliffe: “Nazanin was quite calm yesterday – but by the end of the day pretty angry.

“She had allowed herself to think that she was near the end. Now we are back in the middle.

“The goalposts about when she can legally come home have been shifted profoundly. Gabriella hasn’t seen Nazanin for 18 months.

“You add two more years onto that – that’s as long as I didn’t see Gabriella for when she was stuck in Iran.

“That’s a heck of a long time for a small girl to be without her mother.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that he thought the sentencing was “wrong”.

“I don’t think it’s right at all that Nazanin should be sentenced to any more time in jail. I think that it was wrong,” he said.

“I think it’s wrong that she’s there in the first place and we’ll be working very hard to secure her release from Iran.”

He added that the “government will not stop” and will “redouble our efforts” to fight for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called the detention of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe for a further year “totally inhumane and wholly unjustified”.

Downing Street said the UK was “extremely concerned” about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe‘s treatment but swerved questions on whether it amounted to torture or if she was a hostage.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We are extremely concerned about the treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

“We have raised it at the highest levels, including with the Prime Minister speaking on a number of occasions to president Rouhani.”

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